Virtual design hub connects industry

by Ofentse Sefolo
Virtual design hub connects industry

NeoConnect 2020, a dynamic digital hub especially for the commercial interior design industry, was launched for the first time on www.neocon.com on 1 June 2020. For the full month of June, the interactive platform featured daily online resources including game-changing products, programming, continuing education sessions, webinars and panel discussions covering a range of industry topics, as well as virtual events from 500 leading and emerging companies.

Building connections and spirits
A highlight of NeoConnect was ‘Designing a Better Chicago’, a collaborative initiative celebrating design and social impact, developed by NeoCon, theMART, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the Design Museum of Chicago. Another top feature was DesignStandsTogether, an initiative for creativity, connection and wellness during the COVID-19 crisis to bolster industry spirits with BeWell videos, paper weaving, collages, ergonomics, sleep tips and more.

Users enjoyed an immersive experience of exhibitor product launches, a community portal with a guest blog series and video content from influential industry leaders. A robust social media programme, which began in May, complemented the NeoConnect hub and featured product spotlights, exhibitor takeovers and engaging interviews on Instagram TV.

Bringing industry together for decades
Byron Morton, VP of Sales for NeoCon, says NeoCon has been bringing the commercial interiors industry together every June since 1969. This important event serves as the gathering place for the commercial design world’s manufacturers, dealers, architects, designers and end-users. He says the event showcases products and services from leading companies and emerging talent, providing unparalleled access to the latest and most innovative solutions.

“A robust educational programme of keynote presentations and continuing education sessions offers world-class expertise and insight about today’s most relevant topics as well as the future of commercial design. Even though the industry can’t be together physically this year, it remains important to continue to conduct our businesses, share ideas, introduce new product concepts, learn from one another, support our community and celebrate when and where possible,” says Morton.

Celebrating with special events and awards
DesignGetsTogether kicked off NeoConnect with a special edition Virtual Happy Hour on 18 June with discussions about new launches, ideas and a Chicago-themed libation in celebration of NeoCon and NeoConnect 2020. The American Institute of Architects Chicago hosted the first Small Projects – Large Virtual Party on the same day, honouring the winners of the 2020 Small Project Awards and an online exhibition of project submissions.

A hallmark of Designing a Better Chicago, the Riverwalk installation celebrates shared space while demonstrating the intersection of art, architecture and design.

On 12 and 19 June, Interior Design’s 7th annual HiP Awards honoured industry people and innovative products online. The American Society of Interior Designers Outcome of Design Awards highlighted new tools and processes in design, strategy, technology and research and the 2020 winning projects were celebrated on 17 June.

Sessions empowering design knowledge
There were many informative sessions, webinars and panel discussions covering a variety of topics at this year’s NeoConnect and included:

1. Next level of physical space – multi-sensory experience design
This discussion on 18 June focussed on how good design drives experience by disconnecting us from technology. It pivoted off several design case studies including the design for an interactive wall of water or a ceiling simulating the sky, even syncing it to music or your own heartbeat.

There were talks around how these design elements affect your experience of physical space and promote digital detachment. The session offered attendees the chance to rethink how to incorporate these design tenets to stimulate creativity, honour mindfulness and digital disconnection while applying these ideas to the modern workplace.

2. World Colour Forecast – from beyond the telescope to under the microscope
This webinar on 24 June provided an analysis of macro drivers influencing the 2021+ Colour Marketing Group (CMG) World Colour Forecast including insight into the latest developments affecting society’s changing colour consumption. CMG colour design professionals examined global colour forecasts microscopically revealing societal and cultural forces impacting colour directions for 2021 onwards.

The chaos of the evolving ‘new normal’ due to COVID-19 has affected how colour directions are applied, will mature and evolve. CMG Key Colour stories from North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific were in the spotlight for this presentation with an aim being to support product design decisions for 2021 and beyond.

3. Hospitality’s next breakthrough is the workplace
In the session on 26 June, a new trend in design – the intersection where the hospitality industry meets workplaces – was explored. This trend is driven by a younger generation seeking experiences that align with their values and the desire to have authentic interactions that speak to each person’s individuality.

From restaurants and hotels to healthcare spaces and even workplaces, the hospitality industry has influenced the way to design for the end-user. In this presentation, experts discussed what can be done to meet new challenges in demographics, mobility and technology.

4. Design of community – senior living trends
Designers are faced with the challenge of incorporating the essence of senior living into the overall design of a community. This session on 30 June was built around the current concept of senior living and the desire of seniors to be part of a multigenerational community, supporting their engagement in active, purposeful and meaningful living.

The presentation provided an update on trends and gave direction for senior living and related healthcare marketplace design. It covered perspectives including health and wellness, sustainability, programming, the care population as well as the use of inclusive design principles.

5. We need to talk… about materiality and wellness
In this three-part series, which took place on 12, 15 and 17 June, leading experts offered insight into how interior spaces will be redesigned in a post-pandemic world. There was discussion around how to design better spaces with everything from anti-microbial surfaces to non-touch interfaces.

Part 1 focussed on learning from healthcare, where expert knowledge and practices in healthcare that apply to other sectors like workplace and hospitality were shared, while Part 2 focussed on rethinking materials in a post-pandemic world and how materials need to work in interior spaces. Part 3 covered reshaping healthy workplaces where professionals weighed in on how the workplace can evolve to make employees happier and healthier.

The NeoConnect platform will remain active with updated content through to the end of the year so be sure to visit the website. NeoCon 2021 is set to take place from 14 to 16 June 2021 at theMART, home to Chicago’s most creative and technologically innovative companies, and aims to be just as successful as NeoConnect.

Acknowledgement and thanks go to NeoCon for the information contained in this article.

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